Justinian II of Byzantium

Justinian II – Medieval Monster or Medieval Normal?

Some years ago, early in my Byzantine obsession, I found a novel “Justinian” which I naively thought was about the great Justinian, the one who built the Hagia Sophia. The novel’s author was “H.N. Turteltaub”, the pen name of Harry Turtledove who also happened to be the translator of the

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Anna Comnena, 12th century princess and writer

Anna Comnena – Europe’s First Woman Historian

Anna Comnena was the first child of the Eastern Roman emperor, Alexios I Comnenus, born Dec. 1st, 1083 and named after Alexios’s mother, the determined Anna Dalassena. She was soon betrothed to Constantine Ducas, the son of a prior emperor, Michael VII Ducas. Young Constantine’s mother had been instrumental in

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Gold coin of Isaac I Comnenus

Five Little Known Facts about Isaac I Comnenus

Isaac Comnenus seized the Eastern Roman Empire’s throne in 1057 but only ruled for just over two years. Even so, there were things about him and his rule that differed from the empire’s other rulers. 1 – While Isaac’s father was Manuel Comnenus, a loyal general for Basil II, Isaac’s

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Tales of Byzantium by Eileen Stephenson

Why Byzantine fiction?

Some years ago I picked up a book by the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio – “The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness”. It opens with the striking story of a man who experienced an unusual brain injury that eliminated his ability to experience emotions. What

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marble slab in the Hagia Sophia bearing the name of Enrico Dandolo

Alexios I, Economics & Long Term Consequences

Alexios I Comnenus was an outstanding ruler of the Byzantine Empire. He came to the throne at a time when the empire was threatened by the Turks in the east/Asia Minor, the Pechenegs from the north, and the brilliant Norman leader, Robert Guiscard, from the west. By the end of

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Emperor Justinian I

Worst Riots Ever

This week marks 1,485 years since some of the worst rioting the world has ever seen – the Nika riots that began on Jan. 13, 532 and lasted for five days. The people of Constantinople were fiercely partisan for their chariot racing teams – you either supported the Greens or

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Museum of Great Palace Mosaics - man with green beard

Museum of Great Palace Mosaics

The Great Palace in Constantinople was home to Byzantine emperors beginning with the reign of Constantine the Great in the 4th century. Rather than just one building, the Great Palace grew to include dozens of edifices, both magnificent and large, to the more mundane. However, the structures within its walls

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Hagia Irene - mosaic cross in the dome

Hagia Irene

The Hagia Irene stands a five minute (at most) walk from the back of the Hagia Sophia, just before you reach the gates to the Topkapi Palace. It was originally built by Constantine the Great but was largely destroyed in the Nika Riots in 532. Rebuilt by Justinian I, it

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the Theodosian Walls, Constantinople

The Theodosian Walls

The greatest defensive element of the city of Constantinople were its walls, called the Theodosian Walls after the Emperor Theodosios, during whose reign the walls were built. Although named for Theodosius, he was still a boy when construction was completed by his then-regent, Anthemius, in 413. The walls stretched 6

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Pantokrator Church & Monastery (now the Zeyrek Mosque)

The Pantokrator Monastery

We visited the Pantokrator Church & Monastery (now the Zeyrek Mosque) on a rainy day in March. The building of the monastery and church on a hill not far from the Blachernae Palace was begun by the Empress Irene, the wife of John II Comnenus, and finished after her death

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